Tue, Jul 20, 2010
The social selling revolution is well underway for B2B companies. Every step of the sales cycle now involves some aspect of online social practices – from identifying the target prospect to initiating conversation to finalizing the sale and even sustaining the relationship.
As with all innovation, social selling has its early, middle and late adopters. The concept of utilizing online networks for selling may sound foreign to some, but the practice is far from infancy. If you’ve adopted the social process, you’re en route to achieving higher volume and higher velocity sales. If new to this process, you’ve likely been laced with doubts (either from others or due to self-hesitation) about why social selling is more of a burden than an asset.
Either way, there are myths to debunk in order to drive adoption and help you make the most of social selling opportunities. Here are the ones that are most pressing, and which provide the most hesitation and largest barriers to social adoption for sales.
Myth #1: It’s the customer’s community…vendors, stay out!
Odds are your presence on this site or your interest in this article means that you are in some way involved with social media, even if this involvement is for personal, non work-related purposes. You may even tap into social media for insights on B2C products and services you are considering. B2B companies are NOT exempt from this trend. Your customers are likely actively discussing your products and services. If you need more proof, do a search for your company and product names – odds are more will show up that just your company’s website.
As Jeremiah Owyang said (still relevant even a year later), companies must connect with customer advocates. Although the customer dictates the bulk and flow of the conversation, they also welcome the insight and expertise from industry professionals. This does not mean you should ever enter an online community (LinkedIn, Twitter, online forum, etc.) and spam the site with sales and marketing material.
Communities such as LinkedIn or Focus welcome executive thought leadership and referencing. My team actively seeks opportunities to engage those that are uncertain about implementing sales intelligence technologies or even entrepreneurs looking to learn more about social selling. However, organizations can also be experts on other topics they know. If your company conducts regular webinars or produces whitepapers, other professionals are likely asking questions right now where your expertise may propel their process forward.
Engage, but think like a peer, not a sales or marketing professional.
Myth #2: Role of the vendor: Responder
Engagement means more than being responsive. Yes, a B2B company should look for opportunities to answer questions and be a reference for issues pertaining to their expertise. However, social selling also involves initiating conversation, catalyzing discussion and acting as ambassadors to their industry. The more visible and proactive your presence on social networks, the more reputable and sought after your brand will become.
LinkedIn is, again, a great example. Joining groups enables community members to initiate conversation and group discussion by asking simple, yet widely applicable questions. These questions not only result in unique insights from community activists, but also draw attention to the individual who initiated the topic of discussion. Think and talk like a marketer and your question will be ignored faster than yesterday’s tweet.
Think and talk like a community member and your inquiry will be topic of conversation for months to come.
Myth #3: There are too many social networks to monitor
As the Web expands and social networks diversify, segmenting and monitoring ironically can become less of a burden. If you have the resources, simply search for social media monitoring platforms – these will provide immediate insight about who is talking to/about you, as well as offer the sentiment of the conversation and opportunities for engagement.
If resources are minimal, devote a couple of hours to researching which platforms contain the greatest and most relevant amount of information pertaining to your company, industry and competitors.
Also, share your social networks. Although they’re becoming busier and louder, the most influential networks are also easier to identify thanks to natural topical segmentation and prior interests.
Myth #4: Social selling is only for the sales team
False! But let me clarify. Yes, your B2B sales team is responsible for the bulk of lead generation and qualification and closing the deals. However, many of your most influential brand ambassadors will be the employees outside of the sales team. Why? Because they’re likely active on social media, and if your product is as great as you think it is, your employees are likely discussing it within their own networks.
Although these individuals are associated with your company, they most likely are not intentionally trying to sell. However, so long as the company name is listed somewhere within their social profile, their actions will impact the perceived company image. Should you ban their social activity? No! Why? Because they’ll go home and do it anyway, and if they happen to be bitter about corporate restrictions, their commentary will skew negatively. Instead applaud their social contributions, remind them that they are all ambassadors of the company and that their online social network ultimately catalyzes the rise or fall of the organization’s sales success.
So, engage with your customers’ and competitors’ social networks and act as a peer, not a sales person. Be responsive and educational to inquiries and requests, and do not be intimidated by the expansive social networking landscape (it’s easy to navigate once you get your feet wet). Champion the social initiatives of the individuals within your organization and the social selling process will be yet another influential platform for both planned and organic sales results.
Let me know about your social selling successes or challenges in the comments below.
Umberto Milletti is the CEO and founder of InsideView, the Sales 2.0 leader. Umberto has been a thought leader in the convergence of technology and content for the last 10 years. Follow Umberto on Twitter at @umbertom.